With little time to go before Black Friday, brands and retailers are figuring out how to stand out in today’s over-saturated market. The pandemic has made it more difficult for brands to get their message and product offerings across in line with changing consumer demands. The move online has not only created a more competitive space, but has also affected the way consumers shop and interact with brands.
âConnecting the Dots of the Customer Communication Journeyâ – a panel hosted as part of The Drum’s Digital Summit – examines the key challenges marketers face and suggests ways to improve the customer experience and align points of contact. With this, the future buying power and influence of Generation Alpha – those born in the 2010s – are also called into question as marketers consider their inherent use of technology and how it will affect the evolution of industry.
âThe pandemic has clearly had a huge impact,â says James Stokes, UK&I corporate sales manager at Infobip. âThis resulted in a sudden change in the customer experience, which means consumers now have higher expectations. “
Customers are less tolerant than before and won’t accept a bad customer experience, with Stokes warning: “If brands don’t live up to their expectations, they’ll move on to one that does.”
This means that brands need to ask themselves if they are serving customers with what they need and be realistic about how they are viewed. Stokes encourages marketers to redefine customer priorities by focusing on real-time interactions to ensure information gets to them at the right time through the right channel. This way, consumers are more likely to have a smooth customer journey, where they can easily consume and browse services and understand what the brand stands for.
âCustomer experience now needs to focus on real-time interactions and talk to consumers at the right time, in the right way using the right channel,â he says. âAnd it’s based on consumer preference rather than brand preference. With more channels for people to speak on, brands need to be there to reach out and connect with people on each of those channels, while delivering a cohesive experience across all of them so you can live up to the challenge. your brand promise.
Set up logistics
Emily Hakner, Associate Director of Product at Ask Bosco, agrees and cites consistency across channels as key to improving experiences and avoiding frustration to match customer expectations with reality. In theory, it may sound simple, but in practice, it turns out to be a bit more complicated. For example, many marketers have struggled to put the logistics in place around return policies during the pandemic – and continue to do so.
âBeing able to buy something and return it easily is important – brands need to get it right and establish live chats on social platforms to speak directly to consumers in order to resolve issues,â says Hakner.
Stokes pointed out that brands that do not have the ability to functionally and stress-free return goods are not likely to receive return buyers.
Of course, there are many parts to the returns process, but transparency with consumers is crucial. Denise Sakuma, vice president of brands, marketing communications and merchandising at The Lycra Company, talks about the importance of synchronizing front-end and back-end processes.
Naturally, there has been increased pressure and additional complications regarding import and export during the pandemic and new Brexit regulations in the UK, making it especially difficult for businesses with low capacity. e-commerce and limited tracking facilities. Sakuma encourages brands to better manage consumer expectations although she is optimistic about the industry’s swift response.
The power of technology
Technology can also be useful in facilitating and speeding up processes. Brands should aim to deliver richer experiences on channels like WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and Google Business Messages, which can easily integrate multimedia features.
âSome of these services have built-in automation that can support the return trip within their services,â says Stokes. âMaybe a QR code can be sent to someone to print it out or a return receipt can be displayed directly on the mobile phone? Brands need to personalize their experience using richer channels to eliminate friction and benefit in the long run. “
In situations where brands may speak directly to consumers, Hakner notes that personalization can also work in a sales context and recommends investing in training for this type of exchanges to ensure that the technology complements the retailer’s services. to improve the experience and drive sales.
Knowing the target consumer well will help tailor the experience to that consumer, but retailers should also keep in mind that technology and communication systems can vary across industries and regions – China, for example, has set up a lot more firewalls. Sakuma says, âBrands need to think about all of these dimensions and react accordingly. And we should expect them to continually change in the future, as they have over the past decade. “
What about Black Friday?
As Black Friday looms – with some brands extending their sales windows to ease the pressure – it can be intimidating how to prepare. Using richer channels to engage customers and automate conversations where possible will help respond to queries effectively.
Stokes suggests identifying new, longer-term deployment methods, such as implementing product-driven campaigns to target abandoned cart items or bringing visual propositions to life.
Hakner encourages retailers to focus on their tech stack to make sure nothing goes wrong on D-Day and consider whether there are any strategies that can be used to increase consumer engagement. She cites Amazon which has different products on different days to keep people coming back to the site.
But most of all, Black Friday draws crowds for its big discounts – something, Hakner says, must remain to captivate consumers: âThere’s a lot of research on Black Friday; people wait to buy bigger products than they want as Christmas approaches. Price is a very important touch point, especially in the economic environment we live in, so take that into account before you jump in.
As buyers become younger and more tech savvy, brands will inevitably have to adapt and react to keep pace. Buyers increasingly expect multidimensional interactions with retailers, so it’s incumbent on brands to stay digitally focused and be digitally minded, even anticipating upcoming trends.
If brands can simplify their offerings, stay consistent and be clear in their messaging, they will have a chance to stand out in an already saturated space.
Watch the full roundtable here.